The Brain Benefits of Childhood Exercise

Exercise in childhood could boost cognitive function in later life

(RxWiki News) For kids, exercise is a great way to get some energy out, boost heart health and maintain a healthy weight. But a new study suggests that exercise in childhood could help the brain later on.

People who were physically active before age 12 were more likely to have better cognitive function later in life, this study found.

Past research has suggested that exercise during childhood helps with the development of core cognitive functions like thinking, memory and decision-making. Now, new research is suggesting that those cognitive benefits of exercise in childhood may extend well into middle age and later life.

The authors of this study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the study participants' brains to examine the structural cognitive changes linked to childhood exercise. They looked at 214 study participants between the ages of 26 and 69. They assessed the amount of exercise participants got during their childhoods through a survey.

By using MRI to assess changes in participants' brains while performing a variety of tasks, the study authors were able to test several measures of cognitive function. Across the board, those who exercised during childhood performed better on these cognitive tests than those who didn't exercise in childhood.

Some examples of the cognitive functions these researchers measured are structural and functional connectivity between areas of the brain, the ability of the brain to send signals quickly and the thickness of the cortex (which can be a signal of intellectual ability).

If you are concerned about your child's physical activity levels or your cognitive function, reach out to a health care provider for guidance.

This study was published in the journal NeuroImage.

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan funded this research. The study authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
November 25, 2021